Objectives: To elucidate kinetics of Bartonella henselae bacteremia and IgG response, evaluate antibiotic therapy, and investigate challenge exposure in cats.
Animals: Specific-pathogen-free cats.
Procedure: Cats were inoculated with B henselae or B quintana and monitored. Convalescent cats were challenge exposed with B henselae. Amoxicillin, enrofloxacin, erythromycin, and tetracycline HCl were evaluated for effect on B henselae bacteremia.
Results: Cats developed B henselae bacteremia within 1 week; bacteremia persisted for longer than 2 months before subsiding spontaneously. IgG antibody titer developed shortly after onset of bacteremia; antibody co-existed with bacteremia for several weeks and remained detectable after bacteremia subsided. Cats inoculated with B quintana remained abacteremic. On challenge exposure to B henselae, cats previously infected with B henselae remained abacteremic; cats previously inoculated with B quintana supported B henselae infection. Tetracycline HCl and erythromycin depressed B henselae bacteremia; however, duration of bacteremia remained similar to that in untreated cats. Obvious signs of illness were not observed.
Conclusions: Long-duration, high-titer B henselae infections were highly reproducible in cats. Convalescent cats were immune to reinfection. B quintana-inoculated cats did not have evidence of infection and were susceptible to B henselae challenge exposure. Antibiotic therapy was incompletely efficacious in terminating cat bacteremia.
Clinical relevance: A cat with an inapparent B henselae infection must provisionally be regarded as a possible reservoir for infection for a minimum of 2 to 3 months. Convalescent cats are resistant to reinfection. Usual antibiotic therapy was not completely efficacious. Measurement of IgG antibody can be used to detect past or current infection.